|Saturday, 23 February 2019|
Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 10-04-22
From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>Thursday, 22 April 2010 Issue No: 3474
 PM Papandreou outlines actions to boost Greek tourismPrime Minister George Papandreou on Wednesday announced an action package to boost Greek tourism, while addressing the 18th regular general assembly of the Federation of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron).
Responding in particular to the steadfast demand of tourist agencies for the lifting of cabotage, he announced that a dialogue will be held with all the agencies involved by the end of May, so that the lifting of cabotage for cruises can go ahead immediately.
In parallel, in order to protect working people in shipping and to increase employment in the sector, the government is planning, as he said, the upgrading of training and preparation for seamen of hotel specialties and the promotion of Greek seamen to positions of responsibility in cruise companies through government agencies.
The prime minister also made an announcement concerning company costs at Greek airports and which will lead to the attraction of low cost airline companies and tour operators/charter operators for the development of tourism.
Papandreou announced the exemption from the payment of aircraft landing and stay dues at all Greek state-run airports (with the exception of Athens International Airport) for this year's summer period and the 50 percent exemption in the winter months.
With the exception of Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Athens, as he stressed, no aircraft at any airport in the country will be paying landing and taking off dues throughout the summer. The final release of the land service market at the country's airports was also announced.
Papandreou also referred to targeted measures that decrease the country's cost for the tourist and provide incentives for visitors to come to Greece. In this framework, he announced drastic decreases in the cost of obtaining a "visa" for tourists coming from new, dynamic and developing markets, such as those of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
In another development, two new programmes totalling 100 million euros will be proclaimed for the renovation of small tourist enterprises with small loans, as well as bigger tourist enterprises with loans of a larger budget.
 PM pledges action on economyPrime Minister George Papandreou addressed the Federation of Greek Tourist Enterprises (SETE) on Wednesday, stressing that the country "is currently experiencing a crisis, the worst in the post-junta era, a crisis that is unprecedented for any Greek government."
"And it is our patriotic duty to save the country. It is our historic duty to take every decision that provides solutions for problems that we preferred not to touch for decades, every decision that serves the national interest," he said.
The prime minister said that the state of the economy is now known to all, as are the causes - the mistakes of decades, omissions and self-content - that led us here, as he said, adding that over the past five years the country's structural problems were not tackled and swelled in such a way that Greece found itself absolutely unprepared at the edge of the cliff.
Papandreou stressed that his government was putting order in public finances, it was changing the way of governance, it was proceeding with changes everywhere and the regaining of the country's credibility, being present in all the international decision centres, but added that this "is not enough for Greece's economic and growth problem to be resolved, since this requires time and money."
"Greece is already under supervision by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) due to the deficits and the debt that were created by (New Democracy party) ND's criminal policies for the country. This is precisely what I mean when I claim that our national sovereignty was decreased by yesterday's criminal policies," he pointed out.
Papandreou said that the "creation of the EU's assistance mechanism, in which the IMF holds a minority part, is a success for the country and Europe" and stressed that "today, it is no time neither for disinformation nor for us to disorientate the discussion disseminating fear and panic once again."
 Greek FinMin holds first talks with IMF teamFinance Minister George Papaconstantinou and a team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had a first meeting in Athens on Wednesday, initiating the start of talks that will ultimately lead to a joint agreement between the finance ministry, the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
The IMF team will also visit other Greek ministries (Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping, the Interior ministry and the Labour ministry) in order to have a more complete picture of the situation.
The finance ministry announced that the end of the negotiations process will result in a joint document. This is expected to include further policies of fiscal adjustment, mainly for the year 2011, and the structural changes that must be made. The greater part of this document will be the same as the one the finance ministry must send to the European Commission by May 15, while the rest will concern financing issues.
Once the document is complete, in any case, the Greek side, the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank will have reached a level of preparation where they can activate the EU-IMF support mechanism for Greece without delays.
The finance ministry has made it clear that it is not considering re-negotiating the debt. The immediate challenges will be to reduce public-sector waste, check the efficiency of public administration, restore transparency, manage the public debt and restrict spending, it said.
At the same time as the talks with the IMF, the finance ministry will also continue talks with representatives of the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
Papaconstantinou will depart for the U.S. on Friday in order to attend the spring meeting of the IMF and meet U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, as well as IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
 Gov't on economic assistance mechanism; IMF"We should not look for scapegoats and miss the forest while looking at the tree. We should be honest enough to lay our problems on the table and be brave enough to face them," government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said Wednesday in response to a bevy of press questions regarding the country's debt and borrowing crisis.
Petalotis said reforms announced by the government are "radical, imperative and necessary ... not because they are imposed on us by the EU or the IMF but because without them the country will not be able to survive neither financially nor socially."
Responding to a press question, the government spokesman clarified that "any decisions that will be necessary to be made, in case the economic assistance mechanism is activated, they will not be the same with those made in the cases of other countries that resorted to IMF."
"Obviously, we cannot be compared with other countries," he said, clarifying that "recourse to IMF will not be direct, as it was the case with other states." The government spokesman also stressed that "we are talking about a European mechanism, a part of which includes the IMF."
He added that the IMF's participation was not the government's choice, stressing that "it was Europe's decision and we fall in line with it in order to ensure that the economic course our country will be guaranteed."
Responding to the recurring question on whether additional economic measures will be taken by the government, Petalotis said "the measures adopted and the decisions made are enough for 2010." He stressed that the updated stability and development programme has three-year duration and "our policy will be readjusted in 2011 and 2012, accordingly."
Petalotis also commented that "it was not up to us to shape the terms of the mechanism's operation as far as interest rates are concerned ... We agree that the interest rates are high but beyond that we are dealing with real facts while trying to salvage the country on economic and fiscal level."
On consultations launched with a tripartite committee on Wednesday, Petalotis said it is too soon to make any comments because the meeting is in progress.
 ND blames government for going to IMFMain opposition New Democracy again attacked Prime Minister George Papandreou and his government on Wednesday, saying they were responsible for driving the country into the arms of the International Monetary Fund.
It was Papandreou that had put the IMF "gun" on the table, ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos stressed.
"The experience of all the countries that went to the IMF shows that there were significant repercussions," Panagiotopoulos said.
He blamed the prime minister for causing spreads to shoot up by going from country to country and painting a poor picture of Greece.
"ND's leadership called on the prime minister to take measures in order to borrow at reasonable rates. Instead, however, after wandering around for several months and making Greece look bad, he then committed the grave slip of putting the IMF gun on the table," Panagiotopoulos said, adding that resort to the IMF should have been discussed by Parliament.
 LAOS reiterates objection to IMF recoursePopular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader George Karatzaferis on Wednesday reiterated his party's objection to prospective recourse to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) by Greece.
Karatzaferis said that Greece could still salvage the situation, provided there was a change on governmental policy.
He also stressed that the government appears to have given up, adding that it was inconceivable that, with state properties worth 300 billion euros, an alternative solution cannot be found.
Karatzaferis opined that a solution exists, and called on prime minister George Papandreou to "shoulder his responsibilities before we turn ourselves over to the IMF's embrace, with whatever that entails".
To a press question, Karatzaferis said that he was not fighting the government, and that he wishes to help the country, noting that "in the present phase, a different government under Mr. Papandreou's premiership could be more productive", opining that the premier is "trapped in a rationale that lacks prospect".
 SEV urges immediate activation of support mechanismThe head of Greece's largest employers' union on Wednesday urged the government to seek an immediate activation of the eurozone/IMF support mechanism and warned that in any other case the country was moving towards "bankruptcy and exiting from the eurozone".
Dimitris Daskalopoulos, president of the Federation of Hellenic Enterprises (SEV), in a statement, said he opposed talk of wage cuts in the private sector, saying it was not logical that workers in the private sector to be forced to pay for the profligacy of the public sector. He underlined that the private sector has the ways to find its road towards improved competitiveness and growth without cutting its workers' incomes.
Daskalopoulos stressed it was his duty to ask for immediate activation of the EU support mechanism, with the participation of the IMF.
"Any other choice would be catastrophic for the country as it would inevitably lead to national bankruptcy and exiting from the eurozone," he added.
 IMF: Greek economy to shrink in 2010-11WASHINGTON (ANA-MPA)
Fiscal weaknesses in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are a threat to the euro-area's growth prospects, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday during the publication of its report on global economic prospects for 2010.
The IMF said it expected the Greek economy to continue shrinking this year and in 2011. Specifically, the Greek economy, which shrank by 2.0 pct in 2009, is expected to shrink by 2.0 pct this year and by 1.1 pct in 2011.
"In the near term, a risk is that, if unchecked, market concerns about sovereign liquidity and solvency in Greece could turn into a full-blown and contagious debt crisis ... More generally, the main concern is that room for policy maneuvers in many advanced economies has either been largely exhausted or is much more limited, leaving the fragile recoveries exposed to new shocks."
The report expressed the concern that fiscal difficulties currently faced by Greece could spread to other eurozone member-states, mainly Portugal, Spain and Ireland, creating a much larger and more difficult problem.
The IMF said a return to strong growth rates of the eurozone was threatened by liquidity problems in Greece and said it was a welcome and significant step a decision by the European Commission and the European Central Bank to offer financial support to Greece.
 PM: Gov't putting the country in orderPrime minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday that the government is "putting the country in order", after a meeting with Citizens Protection minister Michalis Chrysohoidis and the Greek Police (ELAS) leadership, whom he congratulated on their decisive contribution to the blow against terrorism and violence in the country.
Papandreou said after the meeting that three simple conclusions arise from the latest developments, referring to the arrests of six suspected members of the Revolutionary Struggle terrorism group and discovery of several of their safehouses and their arms cache.
Firstly, he said, that when a different perception and mentality exists in governance, the civil servant is put to use in the best way possible.
When the rationale that the state is the loot and the clientelistic mentality are put aside and "we show confidence, respect and objectivity in using this dynamic", this is "a message to public administration and every civil servant", Papandreou said, adding that "when we correctly manage the human potential, we have results".
The second conclusion is that the country is being put in order, bringing a sense of security to the people.
The third conclusion and message, he continued, is that the government fully respects human rights and democracy and that, despite whatever difficulties, it is tackling the problems through dialogue rather than violence and arbitrariness.
"This message of democracy is more timely than ever, both for our country and internationally. Transparency, respect for the citizen, the need to fight organised crime and corruption, is a message that, 43 years after the dictatorship, still resounds, and this country serves it with devotion," the prime minister stressed.
 Citizens Protection minister briefs "shadow" counterpart on fight against terrorismCitizens Protection minister Michalis Chrysohoidis met on Wednesday with main opposition New Democracy (ND) shadow minister Nikos Dendias, whom he briefed on the developments in the fight against terrorism.
The meeting, which was also attended by Greek Police (ELAS) chief Lefteris Economou, was held at Dendias' request.
Dendias told reporters after the meeting that he was briefed by the minister in detail on the "battle being waged by Greek society against the phenomenon of terrorism", adding that he reiterated to Chrysohoidis that ND supports the effort.
"Every positive development in this fight is a victory of society. I also took the opportunity to outline to the minister my thoughts on common crime and the increase in the crime rate, an area in which Greeke society is also waging a very big battle," Dendias added.
 Ballistic's conclusion on weapons found in terrorist safehouseA ballistics study has conclusively linked three firearms found in a Revolutionary Struggle terrorist group safehouse in the central Athens district of Kypseli earlier in the week to several terrorist attacks by the group, police announced late Tuesday night.
According to police, the two Kalshnikovs and MP5 machine gun had been used in the attacks against a riot police (MAT) bus in the Athens district of Goudi on December 23, 2008 and also in the January 5, 2009, attack outside the Culture Ministry in Exarhia in which a riot police officer was seriously wounded.
Moreover, the MP5 had been used in the attack against the Nea Ionia police station on April 30, 2007.
Three other guns found in the Kypseli safehouse are also undergoing ballistics examination.
 U.S. State Department on Greek terrorist groupWASHINGTON (ANA-MPA/T.Ellis)
The U.S. State Department issued on Wednesday the following statement regarding Greek police's operations in connection with the "Revolutionary Struggle" terrorist group.
"We understand the Greek police are investigating whether those arrested may be connected to the attack on the Embassy. We strongly support Greece as it conducts the investigation. Terrorism is a shared threat, and we continue to follow the situation closely."
 Deputy FM Kouvelis address at Columbia University in NYNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
The Greek economy, its geoplitical dimensions, environmental prospects and modern green techologies, and also its developmental opportunities were outlined on Tuesday by deputy foreign minister Spyros Kouvelis during a lecture at Columbia University in New York.
Kouvelis outlined the realities of the economic crisis, with the deficit nearing 13 percentage points of GDP, noting that the fundamental aspiration is to create a "new era" and a "new mentality".
The deputy minister spoke about the investment, developmental and trade sectors, in which a new background is being formed both at legislative and policy level, aimed at attracting investments, boosting rade between Greece and the US, the opening of new markets, closer cooperation with Turkey, and promotion of cultural and economic diplomacy.
Kouvelis further stressed the government's efforts to proceed with the implementation of the country's Stability and Development program for Greece to exit the economic crisis with better conditions and a true developmental prospect.
 Deputy FM Spyros Kouvelis visiting ChicagoNEW YORK (ANA-MPA/P. Panagiotou)
Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis was scheduled to hold meetings with state and municipal officals, as well as with members of the Greek American community in Chicago on Wednesday evening and on Thursday.
After his visit to New York, where he represented the government in celebrations marking the March 25 national anniversary and had several contacts, Kouvelis is beginning his programme in Chicago, meeting Greek American businessmen.
He will then be speaking on the issue of the Greek economic crisis and the eurozone during a dinner. He will next be meeting the Coordinator of SAE of the US Region Theodoros Spyropoulos and other expatriate officials in the state of Ilinois.
On Thursday, Kouvelis will meet with Greek American academics and economists of the region, as well as with presidents of the state's biggest expatriate agencies, with journalists, with expatriate politicians and with the city's mayor.
 Gov't on Siemens probeGovernment spokesman Giorgos Petalotis on Wednesday said "(Parliamentary) committees of inquiry decide which witnesses will be called to testify, based on the outcome of the investigation conducted and the evidence collected. Therefore, it is up to the committee to decide whether Socratis Kokkalis will be summoned."
Petalotis, speaking during his daily press briefing, referred to a probe into alleged kickbacks and bribes provided by Siemens Hellas.
Kokkalis is the chairman, CEO and majority shareholder of Intracom Holdings, one of Siemens Hellas' primary corporate customers in Greece.
 Party messages for military coup anniversaryIn a message for the 43rd anniversary of the 1967 coup that abolished Greece's Parliamentary system and established a seven-year military junta, ruling PASOK party on Wednesday stressed that Greece was currently at a crossroads.
"We are faced with decisions that will take Greece forward. Today, we're deciding what country we want to have and hand over to the next generations. At this crucial junction, PASOK and all democratic forces must continue to fight for a Greece of democracy, creativity and progress," PASOK said.
According to main opposition New Democracy, meanwhile, Greece was now living through "the end of an era" that would establish a new form of government, one dedicated to democracy but orientated to the pressing needs of today and tomorrow.
"The country must shed the pathogenies of the past. It must emerge, as soon as possible, from the economic crisis," said ND spokesman Panos Panagiotopoulos.
 Event commemorating Alekos Panagoulis held at Athens City HallA special event in honor of Alexandros (Alekos) Panagoulis, who played an active and pre-eminent role in the resistance against a seven-year military junta that ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974, was held on Wednesday at the Athens' City Hall, an event attended by representatives of all political parties.
Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis addressed the event, which was coordinated by journalist Thanassis Antonopoulos, and was held on the occasion of the republication of Panagoulis' poems, the fourth edition since 1976.
Party representatives that spoke during the event included PASOK MP Yiannis Dimaras, a journalist who extensively covered Panagoulis' activities, main opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Antonis Samaras, KKE deputy Liana Kanelli and Radical Left Coalition (SYRIZA) Parliamentary group head Alexis Tsipras.
The event coincided with the 43rd anniversary of a military coup in Greece, which led to a dour seven-year junta.
 Gov't poised to lift cabotageThe government is poised to lift cabotage restrictions soon, deputy culture and tourism minister Angela Gerekou said on Wednesday, during a morning meeting of the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE).
Gerekou said the government's decisions on lifting cabotage are "in the final stretch", stressing that the decisions would be "taken soon, and when the conditions allow it".
 Gov't on seamen's strikeA government spokesman on Wednesday commented on whether the government agrees with a Piraeus first instance court decision ruling a strike by a union representing coastal shipping seamen as illegal and abusive.
"Court decisions are respected and the government neither agrees nor disagrees," spokesman Giorgos Petalotis said.
He also noted that the right to strike is constitutionally guaranteed, adding that "now we are going through special and crucial times and the people are called on to assume their share of responsibility."
 ND sector chief on undersea Greek-Italian pipelineMain opposition New Democracy (ND) party Political Responsibility, Energy and Natural Resources sector chief Mihalis Yiannakis on Wednesday criticised the government over the Cooperation Memorandum on the construction of the undersea Greek-Italian pipeline.
"The New Democracy government had secured, with specific clauses, the construction of the undersea Greece-Italy pipeline by the Greek-Italian POSEIDON SA company (DEPA and Edison with an equal 50 percent stake). The Turkish state-run BOTAS, with its projected participation in the Greek-Italian pipeline, obtains rights that give it considerable advantages in the Ionian and the Adriatic," he said.
"On the other hand, the presence of the president of DEPA SA in the signing of the corresponding Memorandum in Rome, legitimises the harmful procedures for the country, that are being promoted jointly by BOTAS and Edison," he added.
Yiannakis said that the PASOK government, "with these amateurisms and passive energy diplomacy in essence is revoking the rights that have been consolidated by the New Democracy governments and is making an extremely dangerous turn in the country's foreign and energy policy."
 Marfin Egnatia Bank awarded 'Best Shipping Finance Team' for 2010Marfin Egnatia Bank SA has been awarded the "Best Shipping Finance Team" award for 2010 in Greece, in the World Finance Shipping Awards.
The purpose of the Awards, established in 2007, is to highlight the pioneers (individuals, teams or organisations) with outstanding achievements or working methods in business and economy throughout the world.
 Kiosk operators federation says strike a successAn April 20 strike by Greek kiosk operators and tobacconists was reported as a great success by their national federation on Wednesday, which said that participation rates had reached 96 percent in Athens, 100 percent in Piraeus and Patras and very high rates in other large cities of Greece.
The strike was held to demand a renegotiation of taxation on tobacco products, which are the main source of income for the sector. There was also a protest rally in Syntagma and a demonstration outside the finance ministry.
 Plaisio Computers says profits up 41.2 pct in Q1Plaisio Computers on Wednesday reported a hefty 41.2 pct increase in its after tax profits in the first quarter of the year, to 800,000 euros. The company said group sales rose 10 pct to 102 million euros, while EBITDA fell 6.9 pct to 2.6 million euros and pre-tax earnings rose 11.6 pct to 1.1 million euros in the January-March period.
The Group attributed its improved figures to a rise in its market share, through actions to upgrade customer services and offering more competitive prices.
 Building activity down 22.4 pctBuilding activity continued falling in early 2010, with building permits down 11.9 pct and building volume falling 22.4 pt in the period from February 2009 to January 2010, compared with the previous 12-month period, the Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Wednesday.
The statistics agency, in a report, said building activity in the private sector fell 12 pct in permits and 23.9 pct in volume over the same period.
 Stocks end 1.30% downStocks ended lower in the Athens Stock Exchange, hit by a jump in the Greek bond yield spread to new record highs on Wednesday. The composite index of the market ended at 1,936.43 points, off 1.30 pct, with turnover a low 148.06 million euros.
The FTSE 20 index fell 1.85 pct, the FTSE 40 index ended 2.04 pct lower and the FTSE 80 index dropped 1.59 pct. The Health (4.84 pct) and Chemicals (3.80 pct) sectors suffered the heaviest percentage losses of the day, while Food (3.40 pct) and Utilities (0.34 pct) scored gains.
Compucon (12.5 pct), Cardico (11.11 pct), Varagis (8.96 pct) and Karamolegos (7.25 pct) were top gainers, while Ilis (18.52 pct), Mailis (15.63 pct) and Aeoliki (10.91 pct) were top losers.
Broadly, decliners led advancers by 122 to 51 with another 43 issues unchanged.
Sector indices ended as follows:
Oil & Gas: -0.34%
Personal & Household: -1.15%
Raw Materials: -1.87%
Travel & Leisure: -1.10%
Food & Beverages: +3.40%
Financial Services: -1.31%
The stocks with the highest turnover were National Bank, OPAP, Alpha Bank and DEH.
Selected shares from the FTSE/ASE-20 index closed in euros as follows:
Alpha Bank: 6.26
Public Power Corp (PPC): 13.25
HBC Coca Cola: 20.30
Hellenic Petroleum: 7.93
National Bank of Greece: 12.32
EFG Eurobank Ergasias: 6.07
Bank of Piraeus: 5.95
 Greek bond market closing rportThe yield spread between the 10-year Greek and German benchmark bonds widened to a new record high of 513 basis points in the Greek electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, with the Greek bond yielding 8.21 pct and the German Bund 3.08 pct. Turnover in the market was a low 175 million euros, of which 30 million euros were buy orders and the remaining 145 million euros were sell orders. The 10-year benchmark bond (June 19, 2020) was the most heavily traded security with a turnover of 65 million euros.
In interbank markets, interest rates were largely unchanged. The 12-month Euribor rate was 1.24 pct, the six-month rate 0.99 pct, the three-month rate 0.71 pct and the one-month rate 0.48 pct.
 ADEX closing reportThe June contract on the FTSE 20 index was trading at -1.17 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday, with turnover a low 54.110 million euros. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 9,897 contracts worth 46.541 million euros, with 25,243 open positions in the market.
Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 10,039 contracts worth 7.569 million euros, with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (3,765), followed by Eurobank (641), MIG (1,154), Piraeus Bank (427), Alpha Bank (750), Marfin Popular Bank (1,370), Mytilineos (304), Cyprus Bank (270) and Hellenic Postbank (133).
 Foreign Exchange rates - ThursdayReference buying rates per euro released by the European Central Bank:
U.S. dollar 1.348
Pound sterling 0.875
Danish kroner 7.501
Swedish kroner 9.672
Japanese yen 125.65
Swiss franc 1.444
Norwegian kroner 7.958
Canadian dollar 1.344
Australian dollar 1.450
 Greek leadership remembers Juan Antonio SamaranchGreek leaders on Wednesday issued condolences on the occasion of the death of former International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Juan Antonio Samaranch, as the distinguished Spaniard was remembered as a staunch supporter of the Olympic idea over the past decades and as a philhellene.
"Juan Antonio Samaranch was a major personality of international sports. He devoted his life to the transformation of the Olympic movement and served international sports from many positions with great success, including during his long tenure at the helm of the IOC," Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said on Wednesday.
Papandreou emphasised that the Barcelona native is forever linked with Greece and the effort to first win the right to host the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, as well as the subsequent endeavor to successfully organise the Games.
"It was from his mouth that we heard the decision awarding the 2004 Olympic Games to our country," Papandreou said, adding: "He (Samaranch) was an invaluable supporter to this effort."
Main opposition New Democracy (ND) MP and former Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said the passing of Samaranch -- one of the longest-serving IOC presidents -- marks the end of an era for the international Olympic movement.
Avramopoulos worked closely with Samaranch when Athens was a candidate host-city of the 2004 Olympic Games.
He underlined that Samaranch, with his "inspired efforts, managed to reshape the Olympic Games and give indisputable prestige to the Olympic movement."
"Greece recognises his contribution to the success of its efforts to become the host of the Olympic Games in 2004 and also his deep feelings for the country," Avramopoulos said.
On his part, Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis issued a statement noting that "today the Olympic movement is mourning the loss of a man who played a defining role in its revival.
"Juan Antonio Samaranch was a visionary for Olympism and a true friend of Greece. As the mayor of Athens, the historic headquarters of the World Union of Olympic Cities, I would like to convey my sincerest condolences to the entire Olympic family."
Finally, Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) President Spyros Kapralos expressed his condolences over the 89-year-old Samaranch's passing.
 Exhibition 'Manuscripts in Czech libraries' at Gennadius LibraryThe embassy of the Czech Republic in Greece and the Association of Friends of the Gennadius Library will organise an exhibition entitled "Manuscripts in Czech Libraries", hosted at the Gennadius Library in central Athens this month.
The exhibition commences on Friday, on the occasion of World Book and Copyright Day (23 April).
The exhibition presents the history of manuscripts from the 9th century until the present day, within the context of cultural, historical and social development in Czech lands. It includes information on the oldest manuscripts in Bohemia, the making of a book, the noteworthy era of Charles IV as well as the foundation of Charles University and manuscripts of foreign origin in Czech libraries.
The exhibition lasts until May 21 and entrance is free to the public.
 Eurobarometer poll on rates of alcohol consumptionBRUSSELS (ANA-MPA - V. Demiris)
More than one third of Greeks, or 34 percent, state that they drink five or more alcoholic drinks once or more times a week, according to the findings of a Eurobarometer poll announced on Wednesday.
The average European Union rate on this question is 29 percent, with the top levels of alcohol consumption seen in Ireland (44 percent), Romania (39 percent), Germany and Austria (36 percent). The lowest are in Latvia (11 percent), Sweden (13 percent) and Luxembourg (14 percent).
Of the Greeks that admit to drinking alcohol during the last month, 13 percent say that this happened every day (14 percent in the 27 EU member-states), 10 percent reported drinking alcohol four to five times a week (9 percent in EU27), 24 percent reported two to three times a week (23 percent in EU27), 28 percent once a week (26 percent in EU27), 13 percent two to three times a month (16 percent in EU27) and 12 percent once a month (11 percent in EU27).
The opinion poll found that 53 percent of Greeks consider that a 25 percent increase in the price of alcoholic drinks will be effective in reducing rates of consumption by young people and those consuming large quantities of alcohol.
A further 92 percent of Greeks (compared with 83 percent of EU 27 citizens) agree with an increase in police alcohol testing as a measure to prevent alcohol consumption, while 91 percent of Greeks and 73 percent of EU27 citizens support imposing a 0.2g/l maximum blood alcohol level for new drivers throughout the EU.
Finally, 86 percent of Greeks and 77 percent of EU27 citizens are in favour of banning alcohol advertising that mainly targets young people in the EU.
 Greek-owned freighter hijacked by Somali piratesArmed Somali pirates hijacked a Greek-owned freighter on Wednesday morning as it was sailing east of the Gulf of Aden, with a 21-member crew on board, the Greek Harbor Corps headquarters announced.
The Panama-flagged bulk carrier "Voc Daisy", with a 21-member Filippino crew on board, was seized as it was sailing east of the Gulf of Eden.
The bulk carrier, which was being led to the Somali coast, was en route from the United Arab Emirates to Morocco.
 Contraband cigarettes confiscatedA large quantity of contraband cigarettes was discovered in a warehouse in the district of Acharnes, Athens, following an investigation by ministry of finance Special Audit Service officials.
A search revealed roughly 100,000 packs of contraband cigarettes, both domestic and foreign brands, an automatic shotgun, 55 bullets and 1,200 calling cards.
Based on documents seized, roughly 3 million packs of contraband cigarettes had been sold since Jan. 1, 2009 corresponding to roughly 9 million euros of unpaid tariffs and taxes.
An investigation is underway to arrest the ring members.
 Antiquities smuggler arrestedA 47-year-old man was arrested in Eleftheres, Kavala Prefecture, in northeast Greece, accused of illicit trade of antiquities.
A police search in his house, a store he owned and a warehouse, revealed three ceramic vases (amphorae) dating back to the 4th century BC and 11 cartridges. All findings were confiscated.
 Fair on ThursdayFair weather and variable winds are forecast in most parts of the country on Thursday, with wind velocity reaching 3-6 beaufort. Temperatures will range between 6C and 25C. Fair in Athens, with variable 3-4 beaufort winds and temperatures ranging from 12C to 24C. Slightly cloudy in Thessaloniki, with temperatures ranging from 11C to 22C.
 The Wednesday edition of Athens ' dailies at a glanceThe arrival of an EU, IMF and ECB delegation to Athens and the beginning of deliberations with the Greek government on details of a eurozone support mechanism, looming changes in social security, the labour market and so-called "closed" professions as well as efforts to cut tax evasion and debts owed to the tax bureau mostly dominated the headlines on Wednesday in Athens' newspapers.
ADESMEFTOS TYPOS: "Interior Minister opens door for hirings in public sector".
APOGEVMATINI: "Hunt for tax debtors in private companies' hands".
AVGHI: "Uprising against IMF".
AVRIANI: "MIG president Andreas Vgenopoulos: "Politicians responsible for country's bankruptcy".
ELEFTHEROS: "Government hands over country's administration to IMF".
ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: "New elements on scam with the bonds - FinMin Papaconstantinou hides behind Bank of Greece".
ELEFTHEROTYPIA: "Why this newspaper did not publish news of the police raid," referring the latest discovery, on Monday, of an urban terror gang's purported arms cache as well as an internal dispute between the paper's owners and editors over whether to publish the report.
ESTIA: "IMF's arrival our last chance for purification".
ETHNOS: "Private companies recruited in tax hunt - Collection of 1.5 billion euros is 2010 target".
IMERISSIA: "Government preparing for (support) request".
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 President assures ambassadors of commitment to Cyprus talksNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias met on Wednesday with the ambassadors to Cyprus of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, whom he assured of his commitment to continue negotiations for a solution of the island's political problem, and reiterated his positions concerning an international conference.
Government Spokesman Stephanos Stephanou said after the meeting at the Presidential Palace that the ambassadors shared the positions of the President and support his views regarding an international conference on the Cyprus problem.
On behalf of the ambassadors, US Ambassador to Cyprus Frank Urbancic said they congratulated the President on his decision to move forward from the point where the talks left off and confirmed that this was the right approach.
In his remarks, Stephanou said ''the President of the Republic met today (Wednesday) with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council to brief them on his positions and views concerning the Cyprus problem, in the light of the change in the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community.''
''The President of the Republic reiterated and reaffirmed his wish and commitment to continue the negotiations to reach a solution of the Cyprus problem. He once again reaffirmed his commitment and dedication to the basis of negotiations for a bizonal bicommunal federation solution, with political equality, as described in relevant UN resolutions, for a single state with a single sovereignty, a single citizenship and a single international identity,'' Stephanou said.
He added that ''the ambassadors of the five permanent members fully shared the positions of the President of the Republic and welcomed the fact that the President of the Republic remains committed both to the continuation of the negotiations, from where we left off and on the same basis that was agreed on between the two communities, before the beginning of the talks.''
''Reference was also made to the issue of the international conference. The President of the Republic reiterated the position he had expressed during his press conference, pointed out again that the Cyprus problem, according to UN resolutions as well, is an issue of which the internal aspects should be agreed on, resolved by the two communities, in the context of the bicommunal dialogue,'' he said.
He added that ''an international conference can take place in time, when they will move on to the external aspects of the Cyprus problem and the discussion of issues concerning the international aspects of the Cyprus problem, in the context of the UN, in the presence of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the EU, the guarantor powers, and of course the Republic of Cyprus.''
Asked who raised the issue, Stephanou said that ''unavoidably, because it is an issue that is being discussed over the past period, the President reiterated the position he has publicly said before, and in this issue we received full understanding, and the five permanent members fully understand and support this position.''
Urbancic said he was ''very pleased to say, on behalf of the five, that the President has invited us here and gave us a very thorough briefing on his views of next steps and how the process will go forward and we, as the five, confirmed to the President our firm belief that the process should go forward.''
''We congratulated him on his decision to move forward from the point where the talks left off and we confirmed to him that we thought that was the right approach and that the talks should resume on the basis of the agreements that the two leaders reached in 2008 and of course the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,'' he added.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third. President Christofias has been engaged in talks with the leader of the Tukrish Cypriot community since September 2008.
 Turkey still refuses to comply with ECHR ruling on missing personsNICOSIA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
President of the Committee of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons, Nicos Theodosiou, has said that Turkey still refuses to comply with a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which calls on Ankara to help investigations into the fate of Greek Cypriots, who as a result of the Turkish invasion in 1974, were reported missing.
Speaking Wednesday at a press conference on the occasion of the 26th Marathon of Love for Missing Persons, 19 - 25 April, Theodosiou said that the issue of missing persons does not only include the exhumation of remains and their identification with the DNA method.
"Exhumation and identification are only part of the investigating process", he went on to say.
He explained that twice, in 2009 and 2001, the plenary session of the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Turkey to give information about the fate of each and every missing person.
"Turkey has not cooperated on any level, no single case has been investigated", he added.
Speaking at the press conference, Archbishop Chrysostomos II said that the humanitarian issue of missing persons is of great importance for the Church of Cyprus and is among its priorities.
"We must insist until the end because those who have died demand vindication. Their families and children also demand this", he said.
During the Marathon of Love for the Missing, representations will be made abroad and a delegation of the Committee of Relatives of Undeclared Prisoners and Missing Persons will travel to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg to hold meetings before the debate on the missing persons issue, that will take place June 1st at the Committee of Ministers.
As a result of the 1974 Turkish invasion in Cyprus, 1619 Greek-Cypriots were listed as missing, most of whom soldiers or reservists, who were captured in the battlefield.
Among them, however, were many civilians, women and children, arrested by the Turkish invasion troops and Turkish Cypriot paramilitary groups, within the area controlled by the Turkish army after the end of hostilities and far away from the military front.
Many of those missing were last seen alive in the hands of the Turkish military. The Committee of Missing Persons has been engaged in a process of exhumation and identification of remains of both Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, who have been missing since the early 1960s when intercommunal fighting broke out.
 Archbishop Chrysostomos: Eroglu's "election" irrelevant since Ankara decidesLARNACA (CNA/ANA-MPA)
Archbishop Chrysostomos II expressed on Wednesday the view that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan would have benefited from a meeting with him because he would have shown that Turkey is a democratic country which is interested in the preservation of church monuments in the Turkish occupied north.
In statements at Larnaca International Airport on his return from Brussels and Istanbul where he held talks with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Archbishop was invited to comment on the result of the "elections" in the Turkish occupied areas that resulted with Dervis Eroglu's victory over Mehmet Ali Talat.
"It makes no difference because at the end what will happen is what Ankara wants", he added.
The Archbishop said he returns from both cities with "many experiences", adding our leadership, both the state and Church, must be on a national alert and lead the people by outlining a strategy, "because only if we are assertive we will achieve our aims".
He referred to his meeting with "Patriarch Bartholomew and the talks that followed where they reviewed the situation at both Churches and underlined that we are always close to the Ecumenical Patriarchate".
Noting that even though the Church of Cyprus might be a small one, "it can help to a large extent the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Orthodox Churches and with a lot of love".
Invited to comment ïn the reasons why he did not meet the Turkish premier, the Archbishop said "we went with good will and we were ready to meet him but he did not want", adding that "Erdogan would have benefited from a meeting, because it would have shown to the world and especially the Europeans, that Turkey is a democratic country, is interested in the restoration of our monuments, the issue which would have been at the epicenter of our talks".
He also said Erdogan had never replied whether he would meet the Archbishop or not. Asked if he would respond to an invitation from Erdogan, the Archbishop replied "If he invites me, surely I will go".
Invited to comment on the victory of Dervis Eroglu in the illegal elections, which took place on Sunday in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, the Archbishop expressed the view that "the situation will not change".
"I believe that everything stems from Ankara and what Ankara wants, will happen at the end", adding that whether the leader is Mehmet Ali Talat or Dervis Eroglu, "I don't think it has any great significance".
In addition, he said the Church was in contact with Eroglu over the restoration of monuments and in his capacity as illegal prime minister in the north, "we got a promise that work to restore the Monastery of Apostle Andreas would have immediately started".
Archbishop Chrysostomos said Eroglu was told that the Church is interested in restoring all monuments, especially those made of stone.
He further added that the Church offices in Brussels will be directed to bring to Cyprus more Europeans so that they can visit the north, see the destruction so they can too witness the desecration of the churches.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded and occupied its northern third.
President Christofias has been engaged in UN-led talks with former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, since September 2008, with a view to finding a negotiated settlement to reunify the country.
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